“Kaffi piya abh koffee pi
Is what my darling says to me
Nashe keykhathir peetha hoon
Iss dastanmey aur kya karoon?
From Porus the Parsi by Bachchoo
November is the cruellest month for May — that’s Theresa May, Prime Minister of the sceptered isle who opportunistically grabbed a job to fulfill a national destiny which she had previously opposed.
Come back Shakespeare, we need the likes of you to chronicle the complications, contradictions, complexities and chaos of present British politics. Or perhaps for the chaos one ought to call on Kafka to return and chronicle it, or Oscar Wilde to write a delicious parody.
This was a week, gentle reader, when marinewallas found a whale washed up dead having swallowed hundreds of plastic bags, floating bottles and the other flotsam we careless humans throw into the sea. Though I’m not really an environmental enthusiast, I was inclined to rail and rant against the unfortunate but predictable death of this whale this week as I saw photographs of the creature and they moved me as nothing visual has since the film Doctor Zhivago.
This column would have been a confession of uncaring scepticism about environmental pollution and global warming (my son treats me like a Holocaust denier when we talk about these), but the political dinosaur has invaded the room and the column has to acknowledge it. Else it would be like writing gossipy novels full of senseless sensibilities or pride and prejudice when the Napoleonic wars were slaughtering Europeans.
Commentators are calling the political decision, process and disputes over Britain leaving the European Union as the most important event in its history since the Second World War. They’re blinkered. It’s the most important event since Britain legislated the independence of India. Other colonies in Africa and the West Indies followed. Blacks and browns were free of the whites and Britain itself changed character.
It was no longer the empire on which the sun never set. (The old joke is that it didn’t set because God didn’t trust the Brits in the dark!). The country on the fringe of Europe retained pretensions to be the head of some Commonwealth of nations on which it had bestowed the gift of the American language. These countries would soon, as the burgeoning capitalism of India is witness, go their own way.
There are no statistics on the Internet to tell us how long or how many generations it takes for an imperial country’s population to relinquish its assumptions of dominance or superiority.
When did Rome assimilate the fact that Gaul, Iberia and Britain had broken away? And how many generations after the savage Alexander raped Persia did the Persians come to terms with being a subservient and not an imperial nation? Google doesn’t even understand the question!
Britain’s vote in 1972 to join the European Union was an act of accommodation to the reality of the world as it was. Its decision through the referendum in 2016, by a vote of 51 to 49 per cent of the population (approximately) to leave the European Union was an indication of its crisis of identity and its crass ignorance about the economic realities and structures of the contemporary world. Not to mention some hard residual racism.
Britain today does more than 40 per cent of its trade with these countries which lie across narrow strips of water. Its vote to leave puts this trade, and consequently investment in and employment within Britain, at risk. There are hundreds of other risks, but the persuasions to leave won the vote and Theresa May, who herself voted to remain in the EU, sought and assumed the leadership of a government pledged to leave it.
She is now up a very polluted waterway without an oar, or some such Brit saying. She called a mid-term election last year which reduced her parliamentary majority to a minority and forced her to make a humiliating deal with the 10 MPs of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to sustain any moves she made in Parliament.
Poor old Theresa came back in the last two weeks with a 585-page document outlining the deal she and her civil-servant-negotiators had agreed with the European Union. She told the British nation, her Cabinet and Parliament that this was the final deal.
The hard Brexiteers in Parliament not only said they rejected the deal as it would not take Britain out of the EU but keep it for all economic and political purposes tied to it, but also started an internal party process to topple Theresa May as leader.
The DUP has now indicated it will not support the deal she has negotiated, leaving her without a majority in Parliament.
The 27 countries of the European Union are yet to approve the deal Theresa the Pooh has struck. Already Spain is saying it won’t yield on some specifics about the status of Gibraltar and the French are reluctant to give up their right to fish in British waters. On Sunday other objections from other countries are bound to emerge.
Theresa’s proposal will, if it passes the EU’s scrutiny, be put to Parliament and on any calculation will be defeated. Many in her party and significant numbers in the Opposition are demanding a second referendum which would offer the British the chance to rethink and to vote to stay in the European Union.
Theresa can’t grant the country such a referendum. The rejection of her deal by the British Parliament and by the EU countries — both not just very likely but on the cards — would leave her with no options.
Will she resign in the next week? Her office says she has no such intention and that the impasse will inevitably lead to a general election in which the Labour Party, with the terrifyingly socialist Jeremy Corbyn as leader, might win. So the Tories will stay with Theresa.
Better the cavil than the Socialist devil....